The Southeast is known for warm weather, friendly culture, delicious food, and fun road trips. From the beaches to the mountains, there’s always something to do for every type of traveler. Whether you’re a family looking for a weekend getaway, a couple with eyes on a romantic weekend, or a solo traveler looking to explore the region’s unique culture, The South has it all. Big cities along with small towns and beautiful countryside await.
And the Southeast is also less expensive than some of the other regions of the United States, too. Many travelers come to this area to save some money, while those of us that already live here know that good deals can be found around every corner.
This is a comprehensive guide to finding cheap weekend destinations in the Southeast as submitted by travel experts! It covers destinations for every type of traveler, so read on to find some fantastic inspiration and advice for your next trip.
The small but bustling city of Nashville may be an obvious choice for country music lovers and whiskey enthusiasts. Tennessee’s capital city offers free and cheap things to do including Tennessee State Museum, the Parthenon, Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville Flea Market and the Farmer’s Market. There are also activities for anyone interested in experiencing an American backcountry. Aside from the famous Music Hall of Fame, Music Row, Grand Ole Opry, and Ryman Auditorium — the latter for a daily live show and for the backstage tour — Nashville is home to numerous restaurants that offer a variety of southern dishes (try incredible barbecued ribs!), street art, distilleries, and outdoor wonders like Cumberland Park and Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. Consider staying at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and enjoy expansive beautiful indoor gardens, rivers, and waterfalls. Spend your morning at the Pancake Pantry. Just be prepared to spend some time in line, which is often out the door. To burn off the calories, take a stroll through Centennial Park.
From Ivan at Mind The Travel
This mountain town with plenty of family-friendly activities is the gateway to the Smokey Mountains National Park. But it’s more than just a place to set up a base camp for exploring the wilderness. The town itself has so many attractions that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Gatlinburg is a great place for kids and the whole family, as you can ride roller coasters, visit the aquarium, ride ziplines, explore canopy walks through the trees, see magic and pirate shows, visit Ober Gatlinburg, and more. This is one of those towns that is always popular and fun. Plenty of accommodation options can be found here, as well as many budget-friendly restaurants and quaint shopping areas.
My choice for the best affordable weekend trip in the Southeastern USA is Savannah, Georgia. There are so many affordable things to do there. With Savannah‘s sweet southern charm, your money won’t be spread very thin in this city, like it would be in New York! Do things such as take a walk to Forsyth Park and take a look at its gorgeous fountain. You will see many people walking, working out, and enjoying the daytime breezes. Take a book and sit under a tree for a relaxing picnic if you please. I can suggest you to take the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil to really put you in that southern mood.
You can also walk over to the Bonaventure Cemetery where you can wander around the huge Spanish Oak trees. Try to find the gravesite of Johnny Mercer, Savannah’s Pulitzer Prize winning author, song writer of “Moon River”, and the grandson of General Hugh Mercer. Here, you will also find the likes of poet Conrad Aiken and Little Gracie! The stories behind these local Savannah’s are fascinating. I would also suggest to take a guided tour with the cemetery association, as they offer a free tour the second Sunday of every month. If you are not on a tour, walk from Mulryne Drive to Wiltberger Lane where you can find the signs to the special graves. Visit the Victorian Statuary as you walk this path.
From Cacinda Maloney of Points and Travel
Cumberland Island, Georgia
One of the most unique and rugged places to visit that is affordable if you go camping would be Cumberland Island in Georgia. Located just off the coastline of The Georgia coastline, the barrier island of Cumberland island is still in it’s rare and natural environment. With coastal oak trees heavy with Spanish moss, native palms and other local plants that grow rampant and wild, the island is a natural habitat for wild horses, amadillos, alligators and lots of insects. Camping here is like going back to a place that hasn’t changed and magical in it’s setting. A natural wonderland, Cumberland island also has a colorful history with missionaries, enslaved African Americans and even wealthy abandoned homes from wealthy industrial families that wanted rugged and isolated beauty.
To get to Cumberland, you take a ferry with limited scheduled runs from the port at St. Marys for a scenic 45 minute route through the intercoastal waterways and islands of Georgia. Once on the island you can rent bikes, take a docent tour or just hike on your own to the beach areas or other historic sites and unique landscapes around the island. This is such a unique and lovely island to explore with so much stunning landscape and wildlife. Definitely spend a day or overnight visit to enjoy this lush and unspoiled wonderland at its best and natural surrounds that truly inspires.
From Noel Morata of TravelPhotoDiscovery.com.
Blue Ridge, Georgia
Just a few hours’ drive north of Atlanta sits the quaint mountain town of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Here you can find a historic town center with fantastic restaurants, quaint shops, and a fun atmosphere. Nearby are plenty of hiking and biking trails, scenic river views with great fishing, and cozy mountain cabins for every type of visitor. Don’t miss the famous Blue Ridge Scenic Railway with it’s fantastic views and historical charm.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Known as the “City of Oaks” for the streets lined with majestic oak trees, Raleigh is sort of an under-the-radar destination with a handful of Southern charm. While at first, it might seem just nice and quiet where not a lot happens, as you start looking, it will reveal its wonders one by one. Be it the historic oak-wood district with houses preserved from the nineteenth century, world-class museums like the North Carolina Museum Of Art and North Carolina Museum Of Natural Sciences, the Raleigh Beer Garden that has more taps than any bar in the world, the Videri Chocolate factory where you can watch how chocolate is made- you will never run out of things to do in Raleigh.
If you love the outdoors, you could visit Pullen park and take a ride in the miniature train or cruise around Lake Howell in a paddleboat. You could also go to the beautiful Umstead State Park, where you can bike on wooded trails, rent a canoe to explore the lake.
From Deb Patti of The Visa Project
St Petersburg, Florida
Located 30 minutes from Tampa, St. Petersburg is the perfect destination for an affordable vacation in Florida.
Most visitors head to Clearwater Beach and often forget how amazing its neighbor, St Pete, is. There are plenty of free things to do in St Petersburg .
If you love art, you can walk around downtown and enjoy the beautiful murals and art galleries. In the afternoon, head to St Pete Beach. It’s the perfect place to work on your tan and catch a glimpse of dolphins jumping! If you like watersports, you can also choose to go kayaking in the bay. In the evening, you can grab dinner on Treasure Island and go see the sunset. There are many bar and restaurants but the best option is to grab a take away and have a picnic on the beach. St Petersburg is also home to stunning state parks such as Fort De Soto, Caladesi and Honeymoon Island… perfect for walks in the forest and on the beach! The entrance fees are under $10 by car, making it the perfect day trips for families. St Pete is a very residential and dynamic city. It’s the perfect alternative to the spring break hotspots nearby, especially if you are on a budget!
By Pauline from BeeLoved City
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
New Smyrna Beach is the perfect budget getaway. Close enough to the bright lights and theme park thrills of Orlando for a day trip but it couldn’t be more different. Here old school fun is on offer with little shops selling colorful salt water taffy to fill up by the bagful and ice cream parlors built to linger in. Walk through the High Street to the beach for a beautiful stretch of sand that’s perfect for wandering – they have endangered turtles nesting here too. For more wildlife encounters you can head just out of town to the Indian River Lagoon where you can spot the bottlenose dolphin swimming in the wild – the best place to see these gorgeous creatures. Accommodation is well priced in New Smyrna Beach and you can pick up some bargains overlooking the sand and some fantastic sunsets. Come here to relax, to get away from fast cities or busy seaside towns and find an old fashioned America which is still existing and thriving and perfect for a weekend break.
From Nichola of Globalmouse Travels
The city of Naples on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast is well-known as a high end destination. Weekenders from the southeast US flock here during ‘the season’ and on weekends. But Naples is also be a very affordable destination for anyone, including couples and families.
There are plenty of budget-friendly things to do in Naples and a comfortable range of moderately priced lodging and casual dining to choose from. Since Naples is located right on the Gulf of Mexico, the beach vibe naturally extends to food — local restaurant menus tend toward fresh and casual, from fish tacos and sandwiches, to awesome burgers and food truck fare. Many restaurants will even create picnic lunches or dinners that you can enjoy on the beach.
Besides the beach, it’s easy to find other budget-friendly activities. There are free concerts on the beach and in local parks, plenty of natural areas to hike and explore, and watercraft and paddle board rentals to spend the day on the water. Bird Rookery Swamp and Big Cypress Preserve in the Everglades are local favorites.
You’ll find that Naples, Florida — a beautiful ‘City of Trees’ — to be affordable and unforgetable. And remember, those fiery sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico are totally free!
From Lori at Travlin Mad
See also: A South Florida Road Trip
Asheville, North Carolina
If you find yourself road tripping or looking for a weekend trip to the mountains, I highly recommend choosing Asheville, North Carolina as your destination of choice. It might just be one of the best weekend trips you’ll ever take.
Asheville is an adorable (and affordable) big town that sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Whether you enjoy boutique shops and walking historic downtowns or if you prefer outdoor adventures and exploring nature – Asheville has something for everyone. One of the more interesting excursions is touring the Biltmore estate and gardens either by foot or by horseback.
Nearby is the Blue Ridge Parkway which is one of the more scenic roads in America and serves as the gateway to the outdoor adventures surrounding Asheville. Whether you want to explore the hundreds of nearby waterfalls, hike Mt. Michel (6,000ft), or head down some white water rapids – your outdoor options are virtually endless.
After your outdoor exploration, you can head into downtown Asheville to experience “the Paris of the South” in terms of cuisine. If you are looking for BBQ, Breweries, or want a restaurant with locally sourced ingredients – there is a food experience for everyone.
By Ashley, from Impact Winder
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
Beach lovers will find the versatility of an Outer Banks vacation hard to beat. Accommodating all budgets, this family friendly destination caters to visitors looking for fun in the sun. Rental homes make up over 80% of the lodging (and you can see ideas for AirBnB’s for families here). With over 100 miles of shoreline, four islands, six towns and twelve coastal villages make up the area often called The OBX, found off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.
While beaches and lighthouses might be at the top of everyone’s To Do list, there’s a plethora of activities both on and off the water to keep adventure seekers of all ages happily occupied. Wind based sports like wind surfing and kite boarding are a particular attraction. Don’t forget this is the home of Orville and Wilbur Wrights First Flight and the newly opened Wright Brothers Museum is not to be missed. Adventurers can even try their hand at hang gliding over the dunes like the Wright Brothers at the infamous Kill Devil Hills.
The restaurant scene offers unsurpassed seafood, fresh from local waters. Peel and eat shrimp is just one of the many ways to enjoy the millions of pounds annually harvested from local Carolina waters. Add in chowders, delectable oysters and plenty of craft brewers for an awesome local foodie scene on this string of barrier islands.
From Alison Abbott, Green With Renvy
The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is perfect as a weekend getaway. Its affordable and has much to offer. You can drive the whole 469 miles or part of it on a weekend.
The parkway runs from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. There’s no entrance fee for the parkway. It classifies as a National Parkway and National Scenic Byway under management from the National Park Service. The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as one of the most picturesque roads of the USA.
The route takes you through the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the larger Appalachian Mountains. It offers beautiful scenery, mesmerizing views on the mountains to drown in. The parkway offers hiking and biking opportunities and other ways to experience nature.
On the parkway, and close to it, there’s several options for cheaper hotels and camping.
The parkway offers the oldest river in North America, New River, and the highest mountain peak in the eastern United States, Mount Mitchell (near Asheville). As you can see there’s more than enough to do for several weekend getaways!
By Cosette, from KarsTravels
4 Paws Kingdom, Rutherford, North Carolina
Can’t imagine a weekend away without the dog? No problem if you’re in North Carolina, 4 Paws Kingdom in Rutherfordton is a campground for dogs and their people. You don’t have to own a dog to rent a site for your RV, trailer or tent, a cabin or the tiny house complete with bathroom, TV, Wi-Fi and air conditioning at this campground.
But you better love dogs because this place is canine-centric. Five fenced leash-free zones keep active dogs contained, including one with a pond. Don’t have a social pup? No problem. There’s a private run you can claim with a sign. Wooded hiking trails connect the play zones. There are poop stations every few feet, and water bowls are below hoses at every dog run.
Let your dog try out the agility course and after he’s really muddy, two dog baths (for big and little dogs) in an air-conditioned room (next the private individual people showers) make clean-up easy.
One caveat: 4 Paws Kingdom is a dream play zone for your fur-babies only. Your human babies are welcome only if they’re over 18 years old. Also, there’s no pool (for people).
By Sherri Telenko, www.dogtrotting.net
Beaufort, South Carolina
Beaufort, on the South Carolina coast, is called the “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands” for good reason.
Nestled on Port Royal Island on the South Carolina coast, Beaufort is one of those destinations you’ll want to return to time and time again. The ocean and intercoastal waterways provide opportunities for all kinds of water activities. Combine that with the stunning visual of the old Spanish moss oaks and the undeniable lure of Lowcountry cuisine, and you have a destination that can’t be beat.
History abounds in Beaufort, arguably the most significantly historical American city. In fact, American history began in Port Royal Sound in the 16th-century, before Jamestown or Plymouth Rock. A walking or carriage tour of the charming antebellum downtown and important ancient sites is a must-do.
Beaufort is known for its vibrant Gullah culture. The previously enslaved community created a unique culture with deep African roots that present in their unique arts, crafts, food, music, and spirituality.
Outdoor activities include running like Forest Gump on the Woods Memorial Bridge, kayaking on the bay, or exploring the four small offshore islands – particularly Hunting Island with its pristine “Boneyard Beach,” one of the most hauntingly beautiful beaches in the United States.
By Patti Morrow, Luggage and Lipstick
See also: Beaufort Travel Costs
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is an excellent place to visit for a weekend trip. Whether you just want to enjoy the beach, go shopping, or try some fun tourist activities, you’ll be able to do it in Myrtle Beach! By eating during happy hour, searching Groupon for deals, or visiting in the off-season, you can save money, making it a budget-friendly destination.
Whether you prefer indoor or outdoor activities (or both), you can find something to suit your fancy. There are several carnival rides, adventure courses, and swimming areas if you tend to be an active on-the-go type person. If you’d prefer something more low-key, you can go for a walk to window-shop and people watch. Be sure to visit the arcades, Ripley’s Odditorium, or a dinner show if you need a break from the sunshine. If you’re a foodie, you can choose between southern cooking or seafood at most of the restaurants in the area!
Although some of these activities sound perfect for families, they’re also perfect for full-grown adults, too. Who doesn’t want to relive their carefree days with an Instagram-worthy ice cream treat or trip to the aquarium? If you’d like to know more, read this article about planning a budget-friendly trip to Myrtle Beach!
From Raquel at Meals And Mile Markers
Columbia, South Carolina
Head to the capital city of Columbia, South Carolina for a fun weekend getaway! It’s a vibrant college town with a thriving food scene and outdoor activities along the river. Take a Saturday morning stroll through the roughly 150 vendors that line Main Street during the Soda City Market! Explore the beautiful University of South Carolina campus, and stop at the Clapping Circle near Russell House. Art lovers can drop into the Columbia Museum of Art on Soda City Saturday mornings for only $5. Don’t miss the popular Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, home to Koala Knockabout and Sea Lion Landings, plus a 70 acre botanical garden. Kids of all ages will enjoy a nature break along the Congaree River at Riverwalk Park. Grab breakfast at the Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli or Cafe Strudel, coffee at Curiosity Coffee Bar, Sunday brunch at DiPrato’s and dinner anywhere in the Vista! Before you leave town, make a photo stop to see the 40 foot fire hydrant at 1400 Taylor Street! It’s on the same block as Tunnelvision, one of my favorite pieces of street art. Then swing by Cromer’s and pick up some of their famous popcorn for the trip home! Columbia has so much to offer.
By Kath at FamilyTravelsUSA
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Just north of Savannah, at the southern end of the South Carolina coast lies this relatively large island with large beaches and family-friendly activities. Visitors here won’t just enjoy the beach – there’s also biking, shopping, plenty of restaurants with amazing seafood, dolphin cruises, charter fishing trips, golf, tennis, and more. The island is fairy large, so they offer something for everyone.
Hitlon Head is one of the premier golf destinations in the U.S., so don’t forget your clubs. Also, most resorts and hotels have tennis pros on staff with organized matches so that you can meet up with other visitors if you like. Some of the best restaurants on the island include The Old Fort Pub, Hudson’s, The Old Oyster Factory, and the Crazy Crab. Seafood, anyone?
While the South in general is one of the most affordable regions in the US, you can make your money stretch even further by choosing a Southern destination that’s a bit off the beaten path. For example, instead of going to New Orleans, try Mobile, Alabama instead, which lies just a little further along the Gulf Coast. As the original capital of French Louisiana, this stately city has much of the same French architectural and cultural heritage as New Orleans, with a deeply discounted price tag. Mobile also has some great budget-friendly restaurants, such as the historic Dew Drop Inn.
The fabulous white sand beaches at nearby Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island are also free to access. And if you time your visit right, you can catch one of the colorful local festivals, where you’ll find plenty of free parades and other celebrations you can join in on. Mardi Gras parades run daily and nightly for the two weeks or so leading up to Ash Wednesday. And around mid-March is when the pink and white azaleas bloom and the city celebrates the Azalea Trail Festival. Local high school girls dress up as Southern belles in frilly hoopskirts and welcome visitors with their famous Southern charm and hospitality.
By Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan
Mississippi Gulf Coast
Spectacular sunsets (and sunrises), stellar seafood, and stunning scenery await visitors to one of the US Gulf Coast’s best secrets, Coastal Mississippi. The birthplace of Jimmy Buffett, childhood home of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, and secret getaway for Elvis Presley and Al Capone, offers plenty of opportunities to reawaken, recharge, and rejuvenate. Most Mississippi Gulf Coast activities focus on the water and attest to the Secret Coast being affordable and fun—including exploring the largest natural (undammed) river in the lower 48 states, visiting Gulf Islands National Seashore barrier islands, sampling Gulf shrimp and slurping local French Hermit oysters while overlooking a bayou or beachfront, and enjoying phenomenal sunsets (Henderson Point and Front Beach are two suggestions). Downtown Ocean Springs and Bay St Louis are perfect for strolls, sips, and savoring art and magnificent oak trees. Stop in the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs and look for the Angel trees in Bay St Louis. History fans will enjoy Biloxi Lighthouse (can only climb before 9:30am), Charnley-Norwood House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan), and 100 Men Hall. Foodies should allow time to visit the James Beard nominated chefs at Vestige and White Pillars.
By Charles McCool from McCool Travel
Central Florida is an often overlooked tourist destination, as many people flock to the beaches of Miami, the Florida Keys, and the other coastal cities up and down the coast. However, Florida’s springs in the middle of the state are an epic destination that gives you unique adventures without breaking the bank, Silver Glen Springs, the Santos Trail, and Blue Springs State Park make for a wonderful itinerary for a weekend trip.
Silver Glen Springs is an epic Central Florida spring for you to swim in and explore. If you visit in the Winter, then you may have a few visitors: the famous West Indian Manatees. These gentle giants make the trip from the Caribbean to Florida’s springs in the winter, looking for the warm water that comes out of the springs here. If you get lucky, you might spot a manatee while exploring the park!
If you are at all into mountain biking, the Santos Trail is a must-do. The area is full of awesome trails for bikers of all skill levels. If you’d rather have a smooth ride on a paved trail, you’re in luck, as there is a great network of paved trails at Santos as well. Grab your bikes, or rent at a local bike shop, and bring them along on your weekend adventure.
Finish the weekend with a stop at Blue Springs State Park. If you didn’t see manatees or other wildlife at Silver Glen Springs, you’ll have a much better chance of spotting them at Blue Springs. All in all, the springs in Central Florida will make for an awesome and affordable weekend getaway. Enjoy!
From Zach and Julie, Ruhls of the Road
Key West, Florida
The Florida Keys and Key West, in particular, make for a delightful and affordable weekend trip. Just over 3 hours from Miami, Key West is the southernmost city in America. In fact, it is closer to Havana than it is to Miami.
So why head down to Key West? Firstly the drive along the Overseas Highway is a unique experience. You hop your way from island to island as you travel the 113-mile stretch of road and bridges taking you down to Key West.
Once there the relaxed chilled out vibe of the city island hits you straight away. Walking down Duval Street mixes striking architecture with delightful restaurants and bars. The whole city feels like it’s living a Saturday each and every day.
Duval Street ends at the Southernmost Point of the Continental US. Sorry contrary to the rumours, you can not see Cuba from there. But you can drink in the seemingly endless blue of the Atlantic Ocean.
Key West is a great spot for travel and photography and it makes for a wonderful weekend trip that won’t break the bank.
From Robert at Roam Yonder
Destin, located in the Florida Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico, makes for a wonderful (and affordable!) weekend trip. You’ll find many exciting things to do in Destin, whether you are visiting as a couple, as a family, or with friends.
With miles of silver sand beaches and the trademark emerald green waters of the region, Destin offers the opportunity to simply relax and do nothing, or numerous options for an active fun-filled getaway.
Activities in or on the water abound in Destin. Apart from swimming, you can go stand-up paddleboarding, rent a pontoon boat, go sailing, or rent a kayak or canoe. You can also do cruises, if you want a more relaxed time on the water. Dolphin spotting cruises are particularly popular and the region is also known for its fishing.
On land, stroll the beautiful beaches or walk the boardwalk, browse the shops, or check out one of the many golf courses in the area. Destin also has numerous nice restaurants, many featuring fresh seafood, so if you are a foodie, you will enjoy discovering Destin’s many eateries.
Pack your swimsuit and sunscreen and get ready to have a great sun, sea, and sand weekend in Destin!
By Dhara, from It’s Not About the Miles
Jacksonville, the most populous city in Florida has many free and affordable things to do. It’s a great place to visit for the weekend when you do not want an expensive trip.
Visit Jacksonville Beach’s Fishing Pier to have a great view of the Atlantic Ocean. Most interestingly, just spend $1 for adults and it’s free for children up to 6 years. Enjoy some music, movies,and dance in the Ritz Theatre and Museum for$6.00 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.
Don’t miss the river walk along St. Johns River while viewing the Downtown skyline. Enjoy the free art festival which happens Saturdays (March-December) to see some live entertainment and to buy fresh food and beautiful artwork. Explore more of downtown to see the natural history museum with butterflies, hummingbirds, and other live animal from Florida. The ticket costs only $4 (adults) and $2 (children).
Many parks in Jacksonville are free to visit and a few are less than $5 for the entry free. Check out the bird watching at Huguenot Memorial Park on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Explore the adventure of kayaking and hiking through Talbot Island State Park, and travel to Timucuam Ecological and Historical Preserve to survey a few cultural aspects. Jacksonville has plenty to offer.
From Ruma Dey Baidya at TheHolidayStory
Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel Island, a barrier island just off the coast of Ft. Myers, FL, is the perfect place to relax, unwind, and explore. Known as one of the top shelling locations in the world, people travel from all over to comb for seashells and explore this eco paradise. May is the ideal time to visit as it’s shoulder season and crowds will be smaller, but the water will be warming up for swimming and it’s just the beginning of peak shelling season.
With plenty of bike paths, a nature preserve, few chain restaurants, and no high rise developments, Sanibel is a nature lover’s dream. Rent a bike for the weekend, and explore the island from the Sanibel Lighthouse in the South all the way up to Bowman’s Beach, the best on the island for shelling, in the North. If you want to get out on the water, there are plenty of options from kayaking the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge to taking windsurfing lessons.
Whether spending the days exploring all that the island has to offer, or simply relaxing on one of the pristine beaches, Sanibel is a perfect weekend escape.
From Kristin at Snorkel and Hike
The Southeast has so many places to visit! Furthermore, many of these places can be reached in just a few hours from the nearest major city, and don’t cost too much money if you want to keep your budget low.
Do you have a favorite destination? Let us know!